The 50 Best Filipino Films of the 21st Century

 

10. Todo Todo Teros

John Torres, 2006

Todo

“The film’s true core–its secret heart, if you like–are a series of extended interviews of one Olga, a beautiful Russian guide with warm eyes and wide smile who has apparently fallen in love with the terrorist. Part of the fascination is that it’s real footage of a real girl–Olga Aliseichyk, with whom Torres apparently had an affair. The interviews involve casual, often meandering walks through the streets and plazas of Berlin, and while the girl is pretty enough at first glance it’s her unguarded manner with Torres, the total intimacy with which she talks to him (to the lenses, to us), and Torres’ (the camera’s, our own) unblinkingly insatiable need to drink it (her, the character she ‘plays’) all in that makes her (her character) so utterly compelling.” – Noel Vera

How to watch: Contact Peliculas Los Otros to purchase a copy – (02) 433 1615

 

9. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

Auraeus Solito, 2005 

Maximo

From opening to closing, one could see the “Star Cinema gloss” that this film projects on the screen — that crisp look characteristic of the mainstream studio where most of this indie film’s makers came from. But once Maximo Oliveros sashays out, beautifully confident with a heart, within the slums of Manila, you’d immediately notice the dishes that mainstream cinema has deprived its audiences for so long: queer characters portrayed with a heart, queer-positive scenarios that reflect daily life in Philippine society and at the same time question them, a what-you-have-is-what-you-get-so-better-love-it type of family reminiscent of every other Pinoy family structure out there, and formidable storytelling that tugs at the heartstrings while making you think. Often, we get served one or the other: the pa-deep intellectual film, or the babaw kilig film. Maximo is at the middle, and it boldly intersects other things that need to be intersected. This is its strength, and this is what will make it stand the test of time. – Libay Linsangan Cantor, Leaflens Takilya

How to watch: Contact Cinemalaya Foundation to purchase a copy – cinemalaya.ccp@gmail.com, (02) 832 1125

 

8. On the Job

Erik Matti, 2013 

otj4

Lifted direct from news headlines, On the Job tells the story of two prisoners plucked out of jail to perform high-profile assassinations. Although ordinary prisoners commit these horrendous murders, it is the high-ranking officials who orchestrate the killings. On the Job exposes the rot of Philippine society where the powerful exploit the powerless to advance their own interests. This taut crime noir boasts of a layered storytelling (Matti co-wrote it with life partner and acclaimed screenwriter Michiko Yamamoto), gritty aesthetic, tight pacing, and a towering central performance by Joel Torre as a grizzled, morally hollow inmate. This Cannes-acclaimed film is the Philippines’ answer to Infernal Affairs. – Fidel Antonio Medel, Pixelated Popcorn

How to watch: iflix; or contact Reality Entertainment

 

7. Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon

Lav Diaz, 2014 

Mula

“Sa Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon, umiinog ang mundo sa malawak na rural na pamayanan noong 1970s, bago ideklara ang batas militar gayong nakasadlak na ang kondisyon ng posibilidad ng pagkilos at pag-iisip: walang maaring pagyabong na magaganap, lahat ng pagkilos ay tungo sa higit na paglubog at pagkabalaho. Ang panonood ng Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon ay pagsaksi sa ating nawawalang humanidad, ng kolektibong pagkasadlak, ng pagnanasang umahon, at ng pagpupursiging hindi makalimot sa galamay ng kapangyarihang nagsadlak at patuloy na nagsasadlak pati sa pinakaliblib na mga sityo ng bansa, maging sa kabuuang aspirasyon ng pagkabansa. At ito ang pinalulutang ni Diaz, na sa pagkasadlak, sa paglagay ng mga abang tauhan ng kanilang kinabukasan sa sariling mga kamay, nariyan ang ating nawawalang humanidad, at pati na rin ang nawawalang pag-asa.” – Rolando Tolentino

How to watch: Email sineoliviapilipinas@gmail.com to purchase a copy

 

6. Serbis

Brillante Mendoza, 2008 

SERBIS Image #1

Tingin ko, unang nahinog nang buo ang tambalang Brillante Mendoza at Bing Lao sa pelikulang Serbis bago pa man sila tumahak ng kani-kaniyang pag-ukit sa industriya sa bagong siglo. May ilang tagni-tagning sensuwalidad ng Masahista rito, bagama’t hindi ito ang una at huling paninda, at ang direksyon ay sinisiguradong hindi aalagwa sa lente ng cinema vérité. Ramdam din ang mga prosesong pinagdaanan ni Bing Lao: wala itong ganap na kurba ng pagkekwento (hindi mo alam kung kailan matatapos!), maugong ang pinupuntong usapin tungkol sa decay (sinehang nababakbak kasabay ng pamilyang nilulugmok ng lipunan at panahon) at ang ilang bugtong na hindi kailangan ng kasiguraduhan (ang kambing na biglang pumasok sa sinehan o ang nasusunog na film sa dulo). Nagmungkahi ang pelikula ng panibagong landscape sa Philippine Cinema sa panahon kung kelan umaarangkada ang bansa papalayo sa communal film watching at papasok sa social media age. – Manuel Pangaruy

How to watchiflix; or contact Centerstage Productions to purchase a copy – teeda.pascual@centerstageprod.com, (02) 5319831

 

5. Badil

Chito Roño, 2013 

Badil4

Badil shows the dynamics of power and politicking from a barangay-level perspective, how relationships among friends and kin get ruptured during elections because lackeys of rival political parties awash with cash creep through village houses on election eve to buy their allegiance. There’s no movie pleasure quite like the kind offered by a classical thriller, in which a man runs, drives, wades in an increasingly dangerous pool of dark doings. But set in a time of vote-buying in a seaside corner of the Philippines, tracing the disease of rural politics from folk to far-flung folk with a nervous blinking flashlight, the good old gothic nail-biter emerges as something new, topical, exotic, profound, and vividly singular. – SL / Jade Castro, Asia Pacific Film Institute

How to watch: Contact Film Development Council of the Philippines to purchase a copy – info@fdcp.ph, (02) 256 9908

 

4. Babae sa Breakwater

Mario O’Hara, 2003

Breakwater

Along with the respective selection for Lav Diaz’s Batang West Side in 2002 and Maryo J. de los Reyes’ Magnifico in 2003 at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the Director’s Fortnight stint for Mario O’Hara’s Babae sa Breakwater at Cannes in 2004 can be said to have propelled the prominence that much of Philippine films enjoy to this day in the world filmfest circuit. Voted Best Film of the Year by the Young Critics Circle for its annual awards, it turned out to be the last of its breed for an era that was about to end, when film was still film from shoot to finish. Its appeal emanates from the grand vista of lives of the wretched by the sea that it pretty well delivers in somewhat an ode to a cycle of life and death in an archipelagic nation dysfunctional in so many counts. Katherine Luna proved to be an instant icon in the title role with a body and face ripe for stirrings of the primal. – Noy Lauzon, UP Film Institute/Young Critics Circle

How to watch: Try Video 48 to purchase a copy – simon.santo48@gmail.com, (02) 373 2936

 

3. Tuhog

Jeffrey Jeturian, 2001 

Tuhog

Structured as film-within-a-film – a movie director makes a film, based on a news report of a young woman raped by her grandfather – Jeffrey Jeturian’s Tuhog [English title: “Larger than Life”; literal trans: stringing together; showbiz slang term for shooting continuously a scene or a sequence without pause like change in camera set-up], departs markedly from the miserablist urban poor dramas exemplified by Lino Brocka’s slum movies, through a more reflexive commentary of lower class oppression, a film devoid of sentiment, which signals the emergence of Jeturian as a major Filipino filmmaker for the new millennium. – Mauro Feria Tumbocon, Jr.

How to watch: Contact Regal Films to purchase a copy – orders@regalfilms.com, (02) 910 0501; or try Video 48 – simon.santo48@gmail.com, (02) 373 2936

 

2. Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria

Remton Siega Zuasola, 2010 

Ang-Damgo-Ni-Eleuteria

Every so often, a Filipino masterpiece makes its way into the consciousness of a handful of cineastes, and, just as quickly, is forgotten and relegated to the ever growing un-distributed dustbin of Filipino masterworks. Zuasola’s Cebuano single-shot masterpiece,  Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria is such a film. More than 50 years earlier, the film theorist André Bazin almost foretells the promise and arrival of Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria. In his essay “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema” written in the 1950’s, he writes “it draws from it the secret of the regeneration of realism in storytelling and thus of becoming capable once more of bringing together real time, in which things exist, along with the duration of the action, for which classical editing had insidiously substituted mental and abstract time.”  The film’s ever changing mis-en-scene-choreography (camerawork by Christian Linaban) discards the need for editing – it is simply not missed. One is lost in the emotional distress of that moment in time when Eleuteria is cutting her familial ties before boarding a boat to leave for Germany. It is beautifully painful to watch, and I trust André Bazin, looking down from cinematic heaven, would agree. – Misha Boris Anissimov, University of San Carlos Graduate School of Cinema Studies

How to watch: Contact Cinema One Originals to purchase a copy

 

1. Batang West Side

Lav Diaz, 2001

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Batang West Side is about a lot of things. It’s about Fil-Ams, the American dream, family, infidelity, secrets, Martial Law, drugs, reflection, decisions, friendship, identity, patriotism, responsibility, and the collective murdering of the Filipino soul. It’s about questions more than it is about answers, and it’s about making us think, probe, examine, and ultimately reflect.

The bulk of Batang West Side is spent following a detective trying to answer the questions behind the death of Hanzel (Yul Servo), but the case is never resolved. Who did kill Hanzel – gangsters? Drug addicts? His mother’s lover? Himself? The film doesn’t attempt to give any answers, and it’s only fitting that it doesn’t. On numerous occasions, our protagonist, Mijares (Joel Torre), is asked tough questions– by his therapist, by Hanzel’s mother, by the documentarian, among others. His answer each time speaks volumes, of him, of us, of our mentality:

`I don’t know’.

What director Lav Diaz has done with Batang West Side is craft a film so thorough in its dissection of its subject, and so engaging in its handling, that to watch it, in its entirety, is nothing short of a cathartic experience. It may just as well be us in the place of Joel Torre in the film’s last few frames, he alone in the middle of the cold New Jersey night, us alone with our thoughts in the middle of a cold movie theater, exhaling our repressed burdens and inhaling peace of mind.” – Alexis Tioseco, Criticine

How to watch: Email sineoliviapilipinas@gmail.com to purchase a copy

 

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Numbers 51-100

Individual Ballots

Directors with multiple mentions